Take Away Teaching Ideas #18

The Heart and the Bottle

By Oliver Jeffers


Once there was a girl whose life was filled with all the wonder of the world around her.

Then one day something occurred that caused the girl to take her heart and put it in a safe place.

However, after that it seemed that more things were empty than before. Would she know when and how to get her heart back?


You can view the story here


Watch Oliver read the story: https://youtu.be/CeLZDwHKLjo


In Term 2, I had the privilege of collaborating with each PLC at Fyans Park PS in Geelong. We created a whole school author/illustrator study. Each PLC selected texts written or illustrated by Oliver Jeffers to explore and investigate with their students.


A big thanks to the 5/6 PLC – Abbie Walker, Alex Pink, Ali Hayes, Kirsten Young & Lauren McGill, for sharing these teaching ideas for this superb story.

  • Follow the steps to fold an origami heart. Place your heart in your own jar.
  • Vocabulary investigation – curiosity: Collect items such as a telescope, astronomy, sea animals, instruments that ignite curiosity.
  • Writer’s Notebook: The writers select one of the objects and brainstorm their questions and statements.
  • Investigate the frequency of nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs.
  • Punctuation investigation: Why did Oliver include ellipses and commas? How do we respond to these as we read?
  • Explore the meaning – ‘The heart that was put back where it came from’
  • Sentence length investigation: What type of sentences did Oliver use? Why did he vary the sentence length?
  • Illustrations investigation: What colours did Oliver select to depict the character’s feelings?
  • Feelings change: Track the character’s feelings throughout the text. Match the characters feelings to the events.
  • Investigate: Why are some think bubbles are filled with illustrations rather than text?
  • Front load: Implement a Think aloud to address the question – Does the character really put her heart in a bottle?
  • What message did you gain from this story? Discuss with peers. Did you all have the same message? What are you now thinking?
  • What happens next? Write a continuation of the story.
  • Investigate the heart – physical and emotional.
  • Create a jar of gratitude. Write the things that you grateful for and store in a jar to revisit and share.
  • Investigate and record observations about the night sky. What are you curious about? What question will you research?
  • Video yourself reading an Oliver Jeffers story. Who are you going to share the reading with? What feedback did you receive?
  • Create a bookmark that would support the reader to understand the story.
  • Create a short video to promote the story.
  • Compare and contrast the story with another publication by Oliver Jeffers.

Can you guess the book the Specialist PLC explored with all the students?

Thanks to Jodie Thomson for the photograph!



Love books by Oliver Jeffers? This teaching resource for the story ‘Stuck’ by Oliver Jeffers is designed for teachers who love to explore books across the curriculum in meaningful and engaging ways!

The resource includes:

  • Hooks to engage
  • Fun tasks to investigate letters and words
  • Opportunities to build comprehension strategies
  • Strategies to motivate writers
  • Learning experiences with strong connections to mathematics
  • Springboards for investigations

No products found which match your selection.


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick


Take Away Teaching Ideas #17

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

By Mo Willems


You can view the story here


Jenny Kompa and I share a passion for books! Jenny and I are often chatting about our latest reading lists. I was so excited when Jenny agreed to collaborate and with her choice of book!

Thanks Jenny 😊


Jenny and I hope you enjoy your students love for these teaching ideas!


Great read aloud for younger students. They love to get involved! They get very loud & animated! The text is highly effective as an introduction to persuasive texts.


Find out more about Mo Willems HERE


Mo has made a number of videos recently called ‘Lunch Doodles’. They’re quite random in content & length but in the first one he shares his writer’s notebooks, mock-ups and drafts of some of his books and gives a pigeon drawing tutorial.


Check out these teaching ideas:


Text innovation:

Text innovation takes a text and allows the students to change characters, setting, and story elements to make a personalised version of the story.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Truck! (end of story)

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the…(other transport)

Don’t Let the Pigeon… (so many possibilities and always a class favourite!)

What if you DID let the pigeon drive the bus? (Oh no!)

Explore speech bubbles & thought bubbles – difference & purpose.

Explore punctuation – question marks & exclamation marks. How does our voice change when we read these aloud?

What strategies does the pigeon use to attempt to persuade you to let him drive the bus?

Line debates – for and against letting the pigeon drive the bus.

Read more about line debates. Find out more about line debates at:


Lean on the pictures. What is the pigeon doing? What happened first? What do you think is going to happen next?

Explore the pigeon’s emotions. Map out how the pigeon’s feelings change in the story. What events influence the change?

Discuss and list the character traits of the pigeon. Play charades for the other players to guess the traits.

Ignite class discussion around whether the pigeon could actually drive the bus. This may lead to an exploration of pigeons with jobs and learning all about the role of pigeons during war time.

Create some puppets and use them to retell this story.

Create your own pictures of this pigeon doing unusual tasks and add captions.

Create the word VROOM using materials that represent the sound.

Research facts about pigeons. I can recommend this website:


Mo used interesting fonts. Have you trialled using different fonts when you publish your writing? Write an awesome sentence about the book using different fonts.

What shapes did Mo use to create the illustration of the pigeon?

Follow the drawing tutorial of the pigeon HERE

Create a 3D model of a bus. What’s the mathematics about your bus? How many wheels? What colours did you use? What shapes have you used to create the bus?

Trace around the perimeter of your hand to use as the body to begin to create a pigeon.

Make a tally to calculate the most used word in the story.

Design and implement a survey to find out who would let the pigeon drive the bus.

If the Pigeon gave you five bucks (dollars) what coins could he give you? How many options are there?


Links to other texts:

Mo Willems Pigeon series

Mo Willems ‘Elephant & Piggie’ series (also cartoon style illustrations and speech & thought bubbles)

Oscar’s Book -Golden Book (one of Jenny’s childhood faves!)

Do Not Open This Book – Andy Lee (series)

Gary by Leila Rudge

Wheels on the Bus song


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick



Counting on Frank

Take Away Teaching Ideas #16

Counting on Frank

By Rod Clement


I have had the absolute pleasure of collaborating with Bron Chalmers and Gerard Brick for several years now. They are both highly effective Learning Specialists at Forest St PS, with a passion for all things about learning and teaching.  I am most appreciative of their willingness to create this edition for you!

I am sure you will agree with me that their teaching ideas are AWESOME!

Teaching Readers and Writers:

  • Prior knowledge/connections- Frank really likes counting and thinking! Discuss and record the things that students in the class like to do.
  • Investigate humour- What are the funny elements of this story?
  • Choose a fact to investigate/complete an information report on- Whales, dogs, television, gum trees, Mosquitos
  • Frank is very curious and likes to know facts. Collect a list of your own wonders and record them in a wonder journal!
  • Write a list – What does Frank count/measure? Make a list of what you could count/measure in your classroom? What about in the whole world?
  • Peas: Do you enjoy them? Why/why not?
  • Write a letter from a disgruntled pea. Use ‘The Day the Crayons Quit’ as a mentor text

  • What is your favourite vegetable and why?
  • Create a list of likes and dislikes of the class and individual- Record these in your Writer’s Notebook.
  • Could you invent a vegetable that is healthy but also tastes better than anything you have eaten before? What would you call it? Draw a picture.
  • Frank wins a trip to Hawaii- Where would you like to win a trip to? Why?
  • Frank really likes to use his brain for working out and numbers. What do you like to use your brain for? What are your ‘smarts’? ‘Brainstorm’ these things in a brain black line master
  • Read the story ‘Just another Ordinary Day’ also by Rod Clement. Link below>

  • What text to text connections can you make?
  • Compare and contrast (perhaps using a Venn diagram) Frank and Amanda. Which character do you think you are more like? Why?

Teaching Mathematicians:

  • Set up an estimation competition in your class with a jar of jelly beans or each student sets up their own estimation jar with blocks or other items for students to estimate
  • Calculate how many cans of dog food are needed for Frank each year. Students to justify their answer and research how much this would cost per year / month / week.
  • Investigate the phrase ‘times as big’ by creating a model that is three times as long or three times as big.
  • Estimate how many peas in a pea packet. Calculate and model organising in tens and then ten, tens for hundreds.
  • Relate the growing of the gum tree to growing a bean in class. Measure the bean stalk each week using uniform informal units for lower primary or a ruler for middle / upper primary. Graph the height each week using a line graph for upper primary or compare the heights of students’ plants in lower primary.
  • Estimate, calculate and then justify how many students would fit inside your classroom.

Use thought provoking questions such as:

Do students stand or are they laying down?

Are we using just the floor area or filling all space?

Can we fit more in if we are all breathing out?

Students need to be able to justify their answer and use problem solving strategies such as solve a simpler problem (calculate how many students fit in a metre squared then apply this) as well as using personal and social skills to work with other students.

Link this to examples in the Guinness World Records where people have tried to fit a certain number of people in a car.

  • Using some long rolls of paper, estimate and test how long of a line a marker could make before running out. Debate with the class the colour that might be used to complete this!

Do your mathematicians love using dominoes? Check out this resource for more teaching ideas…

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #15

Some Dads…

By Nick Bland

You can view the story below:

Check out the author’s profile to share with your students here


This book links to reading with fluency, predicting, inferring, and making connections.


This book lends itself to exploring character descriptions, patterns in writing, use of punctuation and rhyme to engage your audience.


This is a great book to explore data collection, shape, size and time.

This is such an engaging text – I thoroughly enjoyed planning these teaching ideas for you!

  • During the first read of the text do not show the illustrations. Ask the students to predict the animal in the illustration. The students can confirm or reject their predictions and share their reasoning.
  • Let’s go on a letter hunt! How many words can you find in the story that have two vowels?
  • Collect the rhyming words from the story and write them on individual cards. Lucky dip a word and recall the rhyming word that matches it from the story.
  • Investigate the letter patterns of the rhyming words.
  • Look closely at the pictures to look for clues that match the description of the Dad. I spotted a shuttlecock on the sporty Dad page.
  • Select a favourite page to label the evidence in the illustrations that match the words/description in the story.
  • Create a mobile of rhyming words as a reference for your writing.
  • Collect 5 -10 objects and explore a rhyming word for each object. How will you share your ideas?
  • Why did Nick Bland adjust the font with some words? How does that change your reading?
  • Practise reading the story by responding to the ellipses. Film your reading so it can be viewed.
  • Retell the story using toy animals or puppets.
  • Which character describes you the most? Sporty, in a hurry, …
  • Who do you know that matches the descriptions of the characters?
  • Why do you think Nick drew animals to represent the characters? Do the animals match the characters descriptions?
  • What would the sound effects of the story be? Select a page and make a sound scape of the story. In pairs, play the game – ‘Guess Who’ using the descriptions of the characters from the story.
  • Play charades for your audience to guess the character.
  • Innovate the story by changing the topic of Dads to Mums, brothers, sisters, or grandparents.
  • Use the pattern of the story to create your own story.
  • Can you include the use of ellipses in your writing? What is the purpose? How do you want your audience to respond?
  • Create a survey to find out the page most people enjoyed reading. How will you show your findings?
  • What shapes are the life buoys in the pool? Can you find other objects of the same shape?
  • Can you complete a simple task (putting your shoes on) in a hurry and time yourself? What is your record?
  • Can you make a map to show someone how to walk from your home to the park, school, or shop?
  • Create a survey to find out the most popular sports viewed. How will you show your findings?
  • The sporty Dad is wearing a striped headband. Can you create a headband to wear that displays a pattern?
  • Blow up a balloon and measure its size. How many breaths did it take to inflate your balloon?
  • Investigate the patterns of peacock feathers. Use materials to represent patterns.
  • Explore the dimensions of the animals in the story. Use paper streamers to make a model of the length of one of the animals.

If you get a chance to implement one of these ideas tag me in on your post! I would love to see these ideas come alive!


I have had fun pinning some craft ideas for you too!


Do you enjoy exploring a story across the curriculum with your students? Creating that sense of WOW about a story!

This teaching resource for the story ‘Stuck’ by Oliver Jeffers is designed for teachers who love to explore books in ‘hands on’ and engaging ways!

The resource includes:

  • Hooks to engage
  • Fun tasks to investigate letters and words
  • Opportunities to build comprehension strategies
  • Strategies to motivate writers
  • Learning experiences with strong connections to mathematics
  • Springboards for investigations

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #14


Monkey Puzzle

By Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

The story revolves around a child-like monkey who has lost his mother in the deep, thick, hot jungle. The monkey is then assisted to find his mother by a butterfly, who tries to think of whereabouts in the jungle she might be.


You can view the story HERE


Let me introduce you to my friend Sheila Griffin!

I have the pleasure to work alongside Sheila in W.A. She is a mathematics consultant with A.I.S.W.A.

Sheila is absolutely passionate about mathematics and most importantly she is generous in sharing her ideas and insights! You can connect with Sheila on Twitter HERE


View this video to get to know Sheila 



A HUGE thank you to Sheila for creating purposeful and engaging mathematics teaching ideas to this superb book!


  • Counting and Early Subtraction

“Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed”

View and sing the nursery rhyme.



  • Estimation

Monkey said his mum’s “tail coils round trees.” Without using any measuring materials can you draw a coil approximately one metre long. How could you check your estimation?

  • Geometry – Symmetry

Find a picture of a butterfly and fold it in half. Can you draw the other half?


Source: https://undergroundmathematics.org/thinking-about-geometry/symmetry


  • Problem Solving and Reasoning

Monkey peers through the jungle. He can see 24 legs. Which animals can he see? How many different solutions are there?

  • Collecting data and graphing

Go through the book and tally how many times you see each jungle animal who tries to help monkey and graph your results.

  • Number Lines (Place Value and Ordering)

From the tally write the total number for each animal on post it notes. Order the numbers on an open /empty number line. How many are odd? How many are even? Can you write one more, one less, ten more, ten less for each number?

  • Length

Draw monkey, his mum and dad and order them from big, bigger and biggest.

Draw 5 jungle trees and order them by height.

  • Place Value

Monkey found a four-digit puzzle. Can you help him solve it?


The digit in the ones place is the number of legs on a spider.

The number of legs on a parrot is the number for the thousands place.

In the hundreds place is the number of legs on three parrots.

The tens digit is the number of legs on a frog minus one.


Using the number of legs on the animals from the story, can you make another four-digit puzzle for monkey?

  • Number Facts

Using the left-hand side and right-hand side of butterfly wings.  Place a number between 0 and 10 on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side write the number which makes the number fact to ten. How many of these butterflies can you make?

  • Repeated Addition / Early Multiplication

How many animal eyes are in the story? What number sentences could you write to help you find the total?


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick


Take Away Teaching Ideas #13

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy

By Lynley Dodd

First published in 1983, this is the first in a series of books about the adventures of a scruffy dog ‘Hairy Maclary’. Rhyming, catchy and comical with brilliant characters and plots.

And just so you know a ‘dairy’ in New Zealand is a corner shop.

You can view the story HERE  

Check out Hairy Maclary’ s website HERE 

My inspiration to create these teaching ideas came from a memory on my phone! Last year I visited the Lynley Dodd exhibition – which was brilliant!



This book links to reading rhyme with fluency, exploring repetition, and retelling.


This book lends itself to exploring characters and a plot.

I have created a comprehensive online resource which supports writers to collect and generate ideas. The writers borrow a familiar character to generate problems and solutions to develop their own story. I borrowed Hairy Maclary and Scarface Claw to model this strategy lesson!

The resource includes:

  • An overview of the strategy – Love that Character.

  • The Strategy Lesson includes a detailed plan, photographs, videos and classroom resources to download.

  • The instructional video of modelled writing can be viewed by students at home or school. This lesson is ready to be implemented tomorrow!

  • Differentiation is a key feature of the resource – a range of learning focuses and texts are provided to support writers F-6.                       



This is a great book to explore number recognition, ordinal numbers, and words to describe position!

I thoroughly enjoyed planning these teaching ideas for you!

  • Let’s go on a letter hunt! How many words can you find in the story that have two vowels?
  • Collect the rhyming words from the story and write on individual cards. Lucky dip a word and recall the rhyming word from the story.
  • Investigate the letter patterns of the rhyming words.
  • Create a mobile of rhyming words as a reference for your writing.
  • Investigate if all Lynley’s books rhyme. What did you find?
  • Practise reading a section of the story to be videoed and viewed.
  • Research the breeds of the dogs in the story.
  • Retell the story using toy animals or puppets.
  • What would the sound effects of the story be? Make a sound scape of the story.
  • Create a setting for a new Hairy Maclary adventure. What is going to be the plot? Is SCARFACE CLAW in your story?
  • If you changed the characters in the story – who would they be? Why?
  • Innovate the story by including your own pet.
  • If the story did not rhyme how would you describe the characters. Hercules Morse as big as an…
  • In pairs, play the game – Guess Who using the characters from the story.
  • Add to the description of your favourite character. How could you describe Schnitzel von Krumm with a very low tum?
  • Why did Lynley write SCARFACE CLAW all in capital letters? Can you apply this to your own writing?
  • Plot the story on a story map.
  • How would you describe SCARFACE CLAW? How do you know?
  • Draw the characters from the story and label them according to the order they entered– 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
  • Search for the numbers in the story. Make the numbers using the materials to show their value. What is something the same about the numbers? What can you use to calculate the total of all the numbers?
  • What is the number on your letter box? Share everything you know about that number.
  • Visit the playground at school and take photographs to show your understanding of the words -down, past, end, straight, out.
  • Draw a map to show the Hairy Maclary route. Label the map to show your understanding of the words -down, past, end, straight, out.
  • Create a 3D model of your map and use character puppets to retell the story.

Do you enjoy Lynley’s stories and exploring a story across the curriculum with your students? Creating that sense of WOW about a story!

This teaching resource for the story ‘The Smallest Turtle’ is designed for teachers who love to explore books in ‘hands on’ and engaging ways!

The resource includes:

  • Hooks to engage

  • Fun tasks to investigate letters and words

  • Opportunities to build comprehension strategies

  • Strategies to motivate writers

  • Learning experiences with strong connections to mathematics

  • Springboards for investigations

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #12

Ten Minutes Tops!

ten minutes tops

By Andrea Hillbrick and Kristin Humphreys

One of the many advantages of my profession is the people I meet! Ten Minutes Tops is a collaboration with my dear friend Kristin who lives in Perth. The thinking and planning of this resource began over a coffee and a hot chocolate in a café at Floreat, WA.

 It grew into a highly practical resource exploring twenty reflection tools!

For this edition I am exploring the reflection tool, ‘Rainbow Beads’ created by Kristin. I am sharing how I have reshaped the tool to be utilised across the curriculum.

Watch the video to find out about Rainbow Beads!

Typically, a string is used for a class collaboration and a pipe cleaner for individual students.

As mathematicians we can:

  • Record effective strategies on each tag. Then each mathematician that utilised the strategy can add a bead to the string. At a glance we can see the effective strategies that were used most!
  • Create a personal tool using a pipe cleaner. After playing a game, record the score on a tag and thread on a colour coded bead. E.g. green bead < 50, orange bead = 50, and a yellow bead > 50. Keep adding after each game. What is the pattern?
  • Record the numbers explored during a lesson on tags. Represent the numbers by colour coded beads. What is the total of all the tags?
    • Green – hundreds
    • Yellow – tens
    • Orange – ones

As readers we can:

  • Record key events from a story and use the colour beads to represent how we feel about the events.
  • Vote as a class on our favourite characters. The characters from familiar books can be drawn on the tags. Each student has three beads to nominate their ‘top three’ characters. This looks awesome on display!
  • Build onto the rainbow beads after we listen to each chapter of the book. Write a short summary onto a tag. Ask students to share their insights from the chapter and thread a bead.

As writers we can:

  • Borrow rich vocabulary from our favourite authors. Record the words on tags and use the colour coded beads to represent if the words are nouns, verbs, or adjectives.
  • Explore mentor texts to borrow settings.

  • Continually add to a pipe cleaner by recording the settings for future writing. This would be a tool that would be referred to overtime. Select the colour bead that represents the setting.

As historians we can:

  • Research significant events in history. Record the events on the tags and order the tags by the year. Beads can be selected to represent the events.
  • Represent our facts and opinions by recording our ideas onto tags and using coloured coded beads.
    • Purple for facts
    • Orange for opinions

As scientists we can:

  • Record the steps of an experiment and rate each step. The number of beads would display the level of difficulty of each step.
  • List scientific terminology on individual tags to display on a rainbow bead string. Revisit and define the terms regularly.


Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #11

I See a Kookaburra!

By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page


Learn how these animals and many others grow and thrive in very different environments.


A big shout out to my colleagues at Winchelsea Primary School, Victoria.

This term we have been collaborating to plan and implement a Steve Jenkins Author Study. Steve writes and illustrates the most amazing, informative, and engaging non-fiction texts that are so rich you can plan learning experiences across the curriculum.


A HUGE thanks to Simone Wallace for providing the teaching ideas for this edition.


View the book HERE


Implement hooks to engage:

  • Sketch a habitat you know about around you (e.g. Barwon River)
  • Camouflage – show a page of habitat and see if the kids can find the animals who are hiding (there is an ant hidden on each page).
  • View and listen to a kookaburra laugh HERE

Investigate letters and words by:

  • Finding the verbs in one of the habitats (sipping, leaving, bounding, creeping, sniffing)
  • Acting out the verbs – using a double page (g. in the desert, I see…a long-nosed bat sipping nectar from a flower) – take a video of you acting out this verb.
  • Finding other words for the verbs – synonyms – (‘g. a secretary bird, who kills snakes by stomping on them with its feet…) – what other words can we use for ‘stomping’?
  • Exploring -Why did Steve use a cassowary with a “helmet” with apostrophes? What does this make us think as a reader?

Deepen comprehension strategies by:

  • Predicting: Show an image of the habitat and get students to predict who might live there?
  • Activating Prior Knowledge: Predict the animals you might see in each habitat – desert, tide pool (rock pool), jungle, savanna, forest, pond – what do we already know?
  • Gathering Up the Facts: As the students read, view or listen to the text they stop and record facts. They can write down and add to a paper bag or record themselves saying the facts. The students can revisit their paper bag of facts to inform their factual writing.
  • Questioning: Use ‘Question Key’. Provide the students with an answer and they formulate questions.

          The answer is pond.  The question could be – Where does the snapping turtle bury itself?


Motivate writers by:

  • Writing like an expert – Steve uses precise language to inform. Make a list words as you plan your writing.
  • Mining Your Own Environment What kind of habitat is near you? Identify an animal to research and inform your audience.
  • Researching the technique of collage. Robin Page uses this technique to create the illustrations. Can you use this technique to publish your own writing?


Engage mathematicians by:

  • Looking at the jungle habitat. Count legs/arms (that have them) on the animals and create a table to show the difference between animals. E.g. A spider monkey has 4 legs and a harpy eagle has 2 legs
  • Adding the eyes (that you can see) together in each of the habits. Which habitat has the most eyes? How can you present your findings?
  • Choosing two animals and create a model to show the difference in size.
  • Selecting a habitat and survey your friends about their favourite animal from that habitat.

Explore beyond the book by:

  • Finding out more! Pick an animal from the text and research a little more about them. What did you find out? There is also lots of information at the back of the text for each animal.
  • Exploring a habitat near you Choose a habitat near you (Barwon River, Bushland, beach) and draw/sketch what it might look like. Could you even be inspired by the illustrator (Robin) and use different materials to make this?
  • Viewing images and videos of different habitats. Create a habitat 3D
  • Investigating the globe to find the locations in the book.


Interested in exploring another Steve Jenkins book with your students?

I have created a teaching resource that includes:

  • Two videos to support your planning

  • 30+ teaching ideas

  • Links to online resources

  • Many photos as examples for you and your students!




Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #10

The Tiny Star

By Mem Fox and Freya Blackwood

Once upon a time, although this happens all the time, a tiny star fell to earth . . .

This touching and timeless story combines, for the first time, the talents of world-renowned author Mem Fox with the heart-warming illustrations of Freya Blackwood. These two luminaries craft a truly unique and moving story about the journey of life, to be cherished and shared for generations to come.

A special treat for me! I am collaborating with my dear friend whom I started teaching with. Elissa Jackson @lissandtrev and I had a team-teaching classroom many years ago. It was in this classroom I developed my beliefs as a teacher.

View the engaging video preview of the book HERE 

Listen to Mem and Freya talk about their book. It is so insightful! HERE

Listen to Mem Fox read the story HERE

Elissa and I have collaborated to plan these teaching ideas for you!


This story provides the perfect opportunity to ….

  • Make predictions – Before reading the text, give the students the first line of text and ask them to illustrate the first page. The students explain their illustration and the connections to the first line of the story.
  • Consider the illustrator’s perspective – look at the illustration on the first page and discuss what Freya has included. After reading the whole text, return to the first page and revisit the illustration and hypothesise why.
  • Allow students to share their understanding of the text by retelling the story. Prior to a second reading of the story, let students know they will be retelling the story, and allow them to jot down their thinking during the second reading.
  • Explore the deeper meanings of the text – think about the meaning of the star used throughout the book – the star in the sky, on the quilt, the baby as a star
  • Grapple with some of the themes in the text:
    • Why does birth bring a community together?
    • What does it mean ‘…a life that it lived to the full?’
    • What does the author value in life?
    • How does she show that?
    • What does the illustrator value in life, how does she show that?
    • Why is it important to remember?
  • Have a look at some other books about growing old and remembering e.g. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
  • Talk about the ‘Circle of life’ – how is it depicted in The Tiny Star? How is this similar/different to The Lion King?
  • Infer the characters’ feelings. What would the characters be thinking and saying in this illustration?

the tiny star

  • What do you think about when you look at the night sky?
  • Enrich vocabulary – list the words and phrases that reflect the feelings of love – wrapped gently, took it home carefully
  • Think like an illustrator: Why has the illustrator chosen to use the colour blue so predominantly? How does it make us feel? Compare to Shaun Tan’s The Red Thing.
  • Research – What inspired Mem to write this book?


I have used this as a mentor text for …

  • Explore sizzling starts. Look at the first line of the story – what makes it awesome? Go to the library and find 6 more awesome opening lines for a story.

the tiny star

You could just look at other books by Mem Fox or branch out into a range of texts. Keep a collection of Sizzling Starts as an anchor chart in the classroom.

  • To inspire students to share writing about themselves and their family. A family photo may be helpful to generate an idea.
  • Looking at the power of using pairs of descriptive words – rounder and rounder, caring and kind, loving and wise, loved and adored, …


This is an ideal book to explore …

  • Timelines – show the events in the text on a timeline.
  • Time – what are the things you do when there is a night sky?
  • Really big numbers! How many stars are in the sky? Ask the students to make predictions, then do some research to check you answer. Brainstorm some other collections that could be really large.
  • …forever… the last line of the text is ‘forever’. How long is forever? We use the word ‘forever’ to describe a length of time – brainstorm the times you have said ‘forever’ and think about the time it described.
  • Problem solving – Freya has included many animals in the illustrations. How many can you find? How many legs are there altogether?
  • Measurement – The baby in the story grows taller and taller. Can you build a tower that is tall and another tower that is taller? How many blocks are in each tower?
  • Patterns – design and create your own quilt. What shapes and colours did you use?
  • Symmetry – draw a symmetrical star. Provide instructions to a friend to draw it too!
  • Size – use a range of materials to create a tiny star.

It was such a treat to plan learning experiences for this story – I did shed a tear or two.

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick

Take Away Teaching Ideas #9

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet

I wish that I had duck feet

By Dr Seuss

A young boy weighs the pros and cons of possessing various animal appendages–such as a duck’s feet, a deer’s antlers, a whale’s spout, an elephant’s trunk, and a long, long tail–only to decide that he’s better off just being himself. A zany, insightful story that beginning readers will wish to hear again and again.


Such a fun story to share!


You can view the story HERE. 


Here are my top 20 teaching ideas for you! (In no particular order)

  1. Create a mobile of all the rhyming words. Use colour coding the show the rhyming words.
  2. Use instruments and everyday objects to create a sound scape to match a scene in the book
  3. Think, turn and talk: If you could have one wish from the story, which would you choose? Why?
  4. Lucky dip an animal toy from a bag. What would be your wish? Draw your idea.
  5. Using a photo of yourself had an animal feature.
  6. Make some duck feet from cardboard or material. Tie onto your ankles or shoes and experience having duck feet. What did you find out?
  7. Create a long, long tail. How can you measure your tail? How will you record the measurements?
  8. Can you write the word SPLASH as an onomatopoeia? (The formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named) Can you find some other suitable words in the book?
  9. Make a list of all the wishes from the book. Survey your friends to find out the most popular wish.
  10. Play charades to show animal movements and features.
  11. What is the purpose of the hyphen in the name Which-What-Who?
  12. Create a Y chart to describe the Which-What-Who.
  13. What do you think the message of the story is? Make a poster to share the message.
  14. Create a T chart to explore the pros and cons of all the animal features.

    Animal Feature:



    Deer Horns

    Carrying lots of things with you

    Tricky to get into doorways

    Elephant Trunk

    Playing on the playground

    Washing things at home

  15. Collect images of animals and create your own animal by selecting features from different animals. What is your animal called? What would be a good story to match your animal?
  16. Create a 3D scene for one settings in the book.
  17. Collect up to fifteen words from the book and sort them as nouns, verbs and adjectives. What did you find?
  18. Select your favourite page from the book and practise reading fluently. Video your reading.
  19. Find some animal facts in the book called Actual Size by Steve Jenkins.

    Actual size
  20. Add talk and think bubbles to the pages of the book. What would be inside those bubbles?

Teaching Ideas

Enjoy and take care,


Andrea Hillbrick